Where was I? Ah, yes, the guards. They dutifully lowered us back down to the floor below, but only after we paid them yet again. It would be the last time our coin lined their pockets.
Reaching the floor, we informed the two new characters of the dangers ahead. Yes, their players already knew of the four-armed cyclone of steel, but we do roleplay from time to time.
Rushing past the danger zone, we returned to the chasm. Danger averted, we used two rope ladders, one on either side, to navigate the cavern. To get the one on the far side set up, we used a rope-ladder of climbing. Riches really do spoil PCs. Upon climbing the up the far side, we made it a whole minute before encountering the site of our next would-be peril.
A river stood before us of indeterminate depth. Also, the damn thing was oil. I don't mean 'covered in oil', I mean there was a goldmine in Texas Tea lapping softly at our feet. Knowing this was too good to be true, I cast Detect Evil in the general vicinity of the black flow. To no one's surprise, I detected it. Concentrating long enough, I knew that we faced the bony clutches of the undead. What did we do? We put a rag on the end of our ten foot pole (I did say that we were rich, yes?) and lit the damn thing on fire.
After roasting marshmallows and cloakers for four days, the river and her concealed foes, not to mention her untold riches, had burned away. We hopped down in the stone riverbed, which was about 4' deep, and walked on to our next destination.
A few twists of the hallway behind us, we climbed out of the riverbed and continued onward. We walked on for a little while before we encountered a fork. As is our eternal wont, we chose the leftward path. It led us to an underground cathedral of sorts. We walked along, unhindered, until we reached the main worship room. There, two flaming undead were waiting for us.
Deciding to be useful, I turned them. I wasn't powerful enough to reduce them to piles of burning dust but I did roll high enough to cause both of them to flee. One ran the way we had come and the other unfortunate sod cowered in a corner as we wailed on him for several rounds. Then it was mini-boss time.
A flaming skull floated out from behind the central tapestry and began his assault on us. Despite his painful eye beams of death, we ignored the flying grinfactory and focused on the poor creature before us until it was nothing more than a smoldering heap. By then, we were pretty banged up but we still had most of our spells.
I focused on healing the party while Nascar loving hillbilly Sorcerer JimBob launched his array of magic missiles at our flying antagonist. As return readers will eventually come to learn, my group rarely plans for the eventuality of 'what if we can't reach our foe?' I was the only one with a ranged weapon, and even that was only purchased after we had hit the magical limit of what DM Jimbo Baggins would let us add to our possessions.
Between JimBob and my crossbow, we managed to deal a fair bit of damage to the smirking bastard, but eventually our hillbilly's foam finger familiar (the horrors it must have seen...) caught fire and died. I think it gave a thumbs up at its own demise. Distraught, JimBob cast Fireball centered on himself. Before he could say anything, Gobbler and I glared down Paddy McRuleslawer, silencing his inevitable complaint. Turns out, his complaint would have helped to save our bacon.
Strangely, the flaming skull was not resistant to fire, much to Jimbo's astonishment. (Side note, the nasty little bugger was immune to fire, as well as cold and electricity, but, as I mentioned, Jimbo was a lazy DM and his failure at English occasionally stretched into reading the written word.) Neither were the rest of us. Large fireball in an enclosed area; you do the math.
We had reached a damage stalemate and our foe flew off back down the direction we had entered from. We, in turn, climbed behind the tapestry from which sir-smiles-a-lot had emerged. It was a small room with a bed upon which the group took turns resting. We had earned enough XP to achieve 2nd level and promptly powered up our characters. That only meant we had more HP to regain however, so we spent about a week resting behind the curtain.
Before you ask, yes, I was casting my healing spells every day. I just rolled really bad. Ones. Every. Fucking. TIME! Everyone else laughed heartily while I about had a conniption fit right there in their (the Gobbler and Jimbo roomed together) living room.
Apoplexy aside, we eventually had regained full health and braved the outer room once more. With no sign of any low-flying flames, we regained our confidence, looted JimBob's corpse, and searched the rest of the cathedral.
We encountered a mummified Dwarf along the way but, me playing a Dwarf myself, we roleplayed ourself out of the encounter and into his burial treasure. Score!
Loaded down with even more booty, we turned back towards the surface. When we returned to what we expected to be an empty riverbed, we were shocked to find the black gold had returned and was about up to half capacity. The others saw an obstacle; I saw gold lions in my future. I insisted we sit and measure the rate of return in the river. After a few days, we determined that you could safely fill about ten barrels of oil daily without depleting whatever stock already existed.
Smelling even more wealth, we were about to heedlessly climb down into the river when our floating foe returned. Grumbling about our mind-numbing chatter covering the intricacies of petroleum pricing, he decided that it was time to strike.
We were a few rounds into him shooting his fiery gaze into our reduced ranks when Paddy came to the realisation that he was really good at grappling, and the skull, being tiny, had a -8 penalty. He also deduced that, being a skull, he would lack strength, incurring a further penalty. The hallway being only ten feet tall, and Paddy being 7+ feet tall with a reach of 3+ feet, Yoric had nowhere to run. Paddy easily passed his grapple check (by 27, if memory serves) and we had ourselves a very angry companion.
After impersonating Hamlet for a bit and then making certain his bejeweled eyesockets were facing away from us, we began to interrogate our captive. Though he did give us his uninspired name, Brainburn, he offered little else. After pouring some holy water atop his crown (well equipped, remember?), our canary sang beautifully. He was lately of Skullport, though he had been exiled for some reason (it has been too long) or another.
Gobbler and Paddy wanted to kill Brainburn, but I thought that he would be a great source of information. Lacking a way to feasibly hold on to him, Gobbler came up the frankly brilliant idea of redesigning the chest piece of his steamcraft armour to hold the flameskull in place facing forward. Then I came up with a stunning idea of my own. Gobbler's armour was powered by steam; what is steam but water? Why not... HOLY STEAM! That would keep the little bastard in line!
On our way back, our new ally informed us of a nearby goblin entrenchment. My ears immediately perked up. I would lick Lady Hel's half-dead nether-regions before I would allow those green-skinned pipsqueaks to have any sort of encampment in my Dwarven ancestors' ancient home.
Brainburn led us towards them post-haste, and thanks to his information, we were able to take them by surprise. By surprise, I mean we went old school and kicked the damn door down.
There were nine of them and only four of us; they were hopelessly outmatched. We mopped them up with apparent glee. Brainburn gained some respect for our wanton slaughter of the helpless, cowering buggers after we had killed the first six. That respect would only grow over time. It's strange how murdering with abandon will bring you closer to the entity that only hours before had tried to melt your flesh from your bones.
The last one to die spoke of a goblin king, a misnomer if ever there was one. He told us about the location of his stronghold and Brainburn confirmed its existence. I of course wanted to head there straightaway but I was informed that we had already reached our encumbrance limit. Dejected, I headed their monetary wisdom but swore that we would return to rain Dwarven fury upon this so-called 'king'.
We returned once more to our primary antagonists, the inn 'elevator'
guards. They were hilariously shocked that poor JimBob had not been a
winning Clydesdale and grudgingly forked over the money they owed us,
which more than covered what we had spent going down across all of our
Back in town, Gobbler's character spent
some time rigging up his new chestpiece. Per Paddy's suggestion, he
added 30' of chain on a kill-trigger. This allowed Brainburn to be able
to fly around and attack our enemies as he saw fit but, should he turn
on us and kill Gobbler's Gnome, the chain would retract and purge all of
the armour's blessed steam directly into the traitorous rat, forcing
him to suffer the same fate. Damn, the combined deviousness of our
group still gets me sometimes!
While Gobbler did that, Paddy and I returned to the Mage's guild for the third time, the last time (props if you get that reference!). We informed the guildmaster of JimBob's heroic demise and, giving him three rounds to mourn, we were about to ask him for a fourth of his number but he began shouting obscenities and informed of that mage's did not, in fact, grow on trees. When Paddy countered that they did come from seed, we were promptly escorted out.
After spending our newest freshly acquired fortune, we again went to see the bellmen and took new bets on whether or not our two new party members would survive. When I say two, Jimbo had decided that Brainburn would gain XP with the rest of us as our new NPC and he would take either Wizard or Sorcerer levels, once we gained enough to level.
I personally put a call out to all my Dwarven brethren about my ideas concerning becoming an oil barony. This would factor in heavily later.
We returned once more to the Gaping Hole Inn or whatever that rundown dwelling covering the hole which we were constantly descending into was named. The guards now bet on the man in the iron suit and against the melon of fire. Let the fun begin.